Austrian Airlines has revealed that it has teamed up with oil and gas company OMV to turn the single-use plastic drinking cups used onboard its aircraft into synthetic crude.

The programme has been under way since January, with flight attendants separating plastic cups from other waste since the end of 2018.

A disposal company collects the cups to clean and shred them then delivers the plastic to OMV’s ReOil pilot plant at the Schwechat Refinery in Austria. The plastic is then turned into synthetic crude through a process called thermal cracking.

Crude produced by this process is then turned into fuel or other raw materials for the plastics industry.

Austrian Airlines says this recycling initiative is part of its support of a ‘circular economy’ that conserves resources and is more environmentally friendly.

Vera Renner, VP of cabin operations for Austrian Airlines, commented: “Austrian Airlines is consistently striving to reduce waste on board our flights. Our flight attendants have been making a key contribution for many years by recycling. I am delighted that – together with OMV – we have been able to take another crucial step towards this goal on the initiative of the crew members from the Austrian Airlines ‘Fly greener’ team.”

Thomas Gangl, senior VP of refining and petrochemicals for OMV, added: “The exceptional properties of plastic as a material make it hard to imagine life without it. In the ReOil plant, we are able to turn the AUA drinking cups into synthetic crude and then process them into fuel or back into plastics. Our OMV research project allows us to close the circle and reduce waste. These join efforts send a clear signal of how important conserving resources is to both of our companies.”

austrianairlines.com; omv.com

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